An Adult Circumcison Before the Internet

At what was and probably still is the best-known Preparatory School in Oxford in the 1950s, the ratio of "roundheads" to "cavaliers" was very roughly 50:50, perhaps 60:40.. Almost all the "roundheads" had a low and loose style of circumcision. Two brothers, however, had the highest and tightest cut I've ever actually seen. In the past, I believe, anthropologists have described such circumcisions as "flayed". Not so, 'flaying' circumcisions actually did remove the shaft skin totally. See our page on Islamic circumcision Ed.

At the minor Public School just down the road, the ratio was much the same. Having a rather short foreskin, I was untroubled by the problems one so often reads of. However as I grew older, the foreskin was forever retracting and in particular, being a keen cyclist, this became really quite uncomfortable – a definite nuisance.. After discussion with my wife, who was totally sympathetic, we decided on a circumcision. Fortuitously, a colleague of hers mentioned that he was going into the Radcliffe hospital for a minor operation which he delicately described as "a very ancient procedure" – what a tactful way of putting it!

But how to proceed, in those days before the internet ? Circumcision was regularly discussed at an intelligent level in "Forum" magazine and for those seeking the procedure, they recommended a Dr Newell, (who I'm sure has long ago hung up his scalpel). He had a very small consulting room on the first floor of a house in Harley Street. After an initial visit, an appointment was made. He wrote a prescription for tablets to be taken the night before, to prevent erections. On the actual day, I arrived at his place – he worked alone with no nurse and he gave me several injections at the base of the penis as local anaesthetics. Then after marking a line around the foreskin in red ink, he carried out the freehand procedure. I still remember the "click-click" of what I assume was the making of the stitches. Within less than an hour, I was heading for the Tube station, having paid (in cash) what today seems an incredibly modest amount.

I'd here like to strongly contradict what one so often reads – that adult circumcision is an incredibly painful procedure. In my experience, complete nonsense. I was back at work the next day (an office job). Walking around the house with no pants ? Rubbish! Painful walking ? - not a bit of it! A week or so later, Dr Newell removed the stitches, assured me that the local swelling would soon subside – as it did.

Since then, I (and my wife) have had absolutely no regrets and the many benefits one reads about in Circlist proved indeed to be true. One thing though, and again something one reads about in Circlist. Dr Newell did things his way. Thus he dismissed any suggestion of removing the frenum (which was already partly torn). Nor was the style of circumcision open for discussion. With hindsight, I would have preferred a slightly higher cut. Looking back, my abiding view of adult circumcision is that it really in no big deal. I cannot understand why people make such a fuss about it.

Our son was circumcised at birth (in the USA) and has never had any problems. As the years go by, the multiple benefits of circumcision become more and more established, the arguments of the intactivists ever shriller. Within a few years, pretty much the entire male population of Africa will be circumcised – and so far, we hear of no problems or complaints. The Chinese seem to be ramping up their rate of circumcision. Now that non-surgical circumcision (PrePex etc) has been so thoroughly proven in Africa, how long before such lower-cost methods become available over here ?


Editor's comment: For non-UK readers, in the private (fee-paying) system boys often go to a prep school from ages 8 to 12, then a public school from 13 onwards. However the public schools also take boys at 11 who have been in the state primary system, as in my account above.